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Deficits and Debt in the Short and Long Run

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  • Benjamin M. Friedman
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    Abstract

    This paper begins by examining the persistence of movements in the U.S. Government%u2019s budget posture. Deficits display considerable persistence, and debt levels (relative to GDP) even more so. Further, the degree of persistence depends on what gives rise to budget deficits in the first place. Deficits resulting from shocks to defense spending exhibit the greatest persistence and those from shocks to nondefense spending the least; deficits resulting from shocks to revenues fall in the middle. The paper next reviews recent evidence on the impact of changes in government debt levels (again, relative to GDP) on interest rates. The recent literature, focusing on expected future debt levels and expected real interest rates, indicates impacts that are large in the context of actual movements in debt levels: for example, an increase of 94 basis points due to the rise in the debt-to-GDP ratio during 1981-93, and a decline of 65 basis point due to the decline in the debt-to-GDP ratio during 1993-2001. The paper next asks why deficits would exhibit the observed negative correlation with key elements of investment. One answer, following the analysis presented earlier, is that deficits are persistent and therefore lead to changes in expected future debt levels, which in turn affect real interest rates. A different reason, however, revolves around the need for markets to absorb the increased issuance of Government securities in a setting of costly portfolio adjustment. The paper concludes with some reflections on %u201Cthe Perverse Corollary of Stein%u2019s Law%u201D: that is, the view that in the presence of large government deficits nothing need be done because something will be done.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11630.

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    Date of creation: Oct 2005
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    Publication status: published as Kopcke, Richard W., Geoffrey M.B. Tootell, and Robert K. Triest (eds.) The Macroeconomics of Fiscal Policy. Cambridge and London: MIT Press, 2006.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11630

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    1. Poterba, James M., 1998. "The rate of return to corporate capital and factor shares: new estimates using revised national income accounts and capital stock data," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 211-246, June.
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    3. Jordi Galí & J. David López-Salido & Javier Vallés, 2002. "Understanding the effects of government spending on consumption," Economics Working Papers 911, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Aug 2005.
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    7. Elmendorf, Douglas W. & Reifschneider, David L., 2002. "Short-Run Effects of Fiscal Policy with Forward-Looking Financial Markets," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 55(3), pages 357-86, September.
    8. Olivier Blanchard & Roberto Perotti, 1999. "An Empirical Characterization of the Dynamic Effects of Changes in Government Spending and Taxes on Output," NBER Working Papers 7269, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. B. Douglas Bernheim, 1987. "Ricardian Equivalence: An Evaluation of Theory and Evidence," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1987, Volume 2, pages 263-316 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Roberto Perotti, 2005. "Estimating the effects of fiscal policy in OECD countries," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
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    12. Tobin, James, 1969. "A General Equilibrium Approach to Monetary Theory," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 1(1), pages 15-29, February.
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    Cited by:
    1. Borys, Paweł & Ciżkowicz, Piotr & Rzońca, Andrzej, 2013. "Panel data evidence on effects of fiscal impulses in the EU New Member States," MPRA Paper 48243, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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